So concluded Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger when their 2019 research indicated that around 40% of change management failure related to employee resistance and almost 35% to management behaviours that didn’t support change.
A staggering display of how much people affect the outcome of change.
In our latest WTT research we explore the full impact of human error on the successful outcome of change management, looking beyond the over-used idea that 70% of change programmes fail, to explore what failure looks like and how we can avoid it.
A large part of this sits with the leadership team and their ability to develop themselves and their people throughout the change. This is about seeing leaders as enablers of change rather than change agents, where their focus needs to be on creating an environment that encourages and facilitates change.
Douglas A. Ready (2016) talks about the need for a culture of agility and resilience to manage an environment of constant change. He describes five tensions and paradoxes that leaders must reconcile:
- the need to revitalize an organization, while its employees want things to be normal;
- the complexity of the global market against the need of customers and employees for simplification;
- tightly regulated markets restricting innovation;
- providing customers with faster, better, cheaper while rationalising business costs, and
- engaging with a digital environment but remaining human with purpose.
When change is seen as a collective effort, employees are encouraged to discuss these tensions and their potential solutions. Encouraging openness about the challenges and what’s not working is a must for leaders. Being transparent about individual and team performance means that people know where they are and can seek support if needed.
Upskilling, digitising and future-proofing skill-sets, improves morale and acceptance of change, and enables employees to be involved in identifying, solving, and escalating problems.
Marcou (2020) notes that this helps to make people less fearful of their jobs; they see change as a challenge rather than a threat. He highlights the need to “… positively control the internal environment in a way that enables employees to grow, develop new skills and thrive while the outside environment constantly changes.”
In building organisational capability and embedding continuous learning, leaders create organisations capable of large-scale change.
Through conversation, people develop their self-identity and their social identity. In business, the latter relates to their organisational role, their identity in terms of group membership. When going through change, involving people in developing a shared vision, or in the strategic planning process, helps them to understand what the organisation, and their teams, will look like.
It provides an opportunity to make sense of the changes and develop their shared identities for the future. There must be opportunities to test new ideas against the old, to avoid the likelihood of old behaviours being reinforced or new ones rejected.
It’s not easy, but the reward is significant – for leaders, employees and for the business. You can find out how to make change work for people, leaders and businesses here.
*Full source references are available in our Write the Talk research.
Write the Talk is a specialist storytelling agency. We partner with bold organisations all over the world to connect people to purpose, leaders to their teams, change programmes to their audiences and investors to the vision. We shape and support long-running change stories that help business transformation thrive, as well as providing story training for leaders and employees that builds a deeper human connection between people and their work.